One Startup to Rule the Weekend


I’m hoping you’re asking yourself – what does it take to be the winning team?  

Between the Startup Weekend Book and Alli Blum’s excellent blog post – there’s not much left to say – but I’m more than willing to give a little extra advice.

The Startup Weekend Co-directors cite three main criteria you’ll be judged on:

  1. Customer Validation
  2. Business Model
  3. Execution

Not too bad, right? Here’s what I suggest you do so that you can cover all three topics in your presentation:

Customer Validation

Get out in the real world and interview some potential customers. During lunch or snack breaks ask other participants, too! Chances are there will be a few that could be customers, as well. The sooner you can do this – to validate that people actually want what you think they want – the better. However, it’s also important to make sure you ask for insights or suggestions – and integrate some of these into your plan as the weekend unfolds. A great and easy way to reach potential customers is to create social media profiles on one or more of the social media outlets of your choice. Twitter seems to be a favorite of Startup Weekend participants but you can feel free to try any outlet you think suits your needs! You want to build up a fan-base before launching – this ensures there’s a reason you’ve done (and plan to do) so much work!

Business Model

You’re at Startup Weekend which means you’re an entrepreneur and you need a way for your product to make money. It really is that simple. Make sure you have a revenue model – keep it realistic – make sure you have some reason an individual would want your product instead of that of a competitor. Make a plan for gaining customers – again, a great way to start is a social media outlet – I can’t stress the importance of these enough. You have a built-in potential customer base from anyone who likes/follows you there! Don’t be afraid to change this a bit, either – the business model should be able to adapt to the market, suggestions, etc.


Ah, the final step! The Startup Weekend teams that do the best tend to have a functional prototype up by Sunday night. Don’t let that scare you – it doesn’t have to be your big dream of the final product – but a watered-down version. On Friday night/Saturday morning think of everything you’d like your product to have. Then get practical. You only have the weekend to build your prototype. Start taking away the “nice to haves” and focus on the things you must have! A good designer can also help you in getting a prototype that LOOKS like a final product even if it has a way to go! The judges are going to look to see if you and your team worked well together and this always comes out in the final vision. Work with your team – not against them. Be open to constructive criticism but also feel free to speak your mind if there’s something you feel passionate about. When everyone works together the end result is beautiful.


Yep – that’s a lot of information. And some of it might seem confusing/contradictory. But you’re all awesome. And there are 4 amazing teams with great ideas and lots of motion going on.

Keep your eye on the prize(s) and remember that your teammates should be your strength.

If you’re feeling stuck – don’t worry – that’s what we have coaches for! They’ll be around ALL WEEKEND to help you make sure you have the best product you can have.

As always, if you have any questions – feel free to contact us at lancaster (at) startupweekend (dot) org!

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Like the SW Lancaster page on Facebook.
Follow @swlancaster on Twitter.

Also – here’s some info on judging criteria directly from Startup Weekend HQ (they’ve split it up a bit since I last wrote this blog post so now Execution is split into two):

The Startup Weekend judging criteria is broken up into three sections. Teams are judged according to the following 4 criteria (weighed equally):

  • Business Model
    Can this idea make money? Is there positive customer growth or revenue? Is there a customer acquisition / rollout strategy? Has a revenue model been defined and is it realistic? Is the idea/team ready for capital and execution? Would you invest in this company at this point?
  • Customer Validation
    Did the team identify customers (demographic, location etc)? Did the team get out and talk to customers? What is the value proposition to customers? What channels of communication are used? Product/Market fit?
  • Technical – Execution
    Is there a functional product ( the case of an app, did they build one)? Were architecture diagrams and API signatures included? Which services did they integrate with? How much of the product is running on a real server with non-sample data?
  • Design – Execution
    Does it have a professional look and feel? Does it deliver a compelling and captivating user experience? Is it memorable? What key insights were gathered over the weekend to go in this creative direction?